Ashapurna Devi is a prominent novelist and poet of Bengali literature. Ashapurna Devi, the writer who confined herself within the four walls of her home, would have turned a hundred January 2009. He was born in 8th January, 1909, in North Kolkata
at her maternal uncle`s place. She is one of the legendary personalities of Bengali literature
Early Life of Ashapurna Devi
Ashapurna Devi belonged to an extremely traditional and highly conservative family. In her family, because of the conservative ideals and the domination of her grandmother, the female kids of the house were not permitted to go the school. There were private tutors for the boys of the house. Ashapurna Devi, when she was a kid, used to pay attention to her brother`s readings. And in this way she studied the alphabets. Her father was a famous artist and designer and her mother was a huge book lover. The intensive interest of her mother for reading novels, short stories and classics transmitted to Ashapurna Devi at a very early age. Later on her family shifted to their new house and that gave complete freedom to Ashapurna Devi, her mother and her sisters to read as much as their heart`s desire. In their house, there had been constant flow of magazines and different types of books all the time. Ashapurna Devi was self educated and she had built a love relationship with reading and books. She got married at the age of 15 and she moved to Krishnanagar
, West Bengal
. Ashapurna Devi died in the year 1995.
Career of Ashapurna Devi
Ashapurna Devi began writing at a very young age. She and her sisters used to compete by writing and composing new poems. This factor inspired her to send a poem to the then editor of a popular children`s journal "Sishu Sathi". Her first poem got published when she was just 13 years old. The name of her first poem was "Bairer Dak" (The Call from the Outside). The editor requested her to send more stories and poems. It was the beginning of her never-ending career of Ashapurna Devi in the sphere of literature. In the initial stages she wrote only for the kids. In the 1936, her first adult story "Patni O Preyoshi" was published in the special issue of `Anandabazar Patrika
`, the leading daily of West Bengal. Ashapurna Devi`s first adult novel was "Prem O Prayojan". "Pratham Pratisthuti", "Swanlatha" and "Bukul Katha" comprise her popular trilogy.
Her novel of protest, Pratham Pratishruti (translated by Indira Choudhury as The First Promise, Orient Longman, 2004) shook the complacent bricks of genteel sophisticated Bengali society. Pratham Pratishruti, traces the journey of the heroine, Satyavati, a tomboy who refuses to fit into the childhood prescribed for her who revolts against the unjust words and actions against her elders as she goes out of her way to champion the cause of just and right. Marriage thrives to be the usual mixture of torture with boredom, but somehow she survives with her spirit intact and even opens a school for girls. Her hopes centre on her daughter Subarna, whom she wants to bring up with the advantages she never had, but her husband`s family whisk Subarna off to the village and get her married in secret. Satyavati arrives too late to stop the ceremony, and in a memorable scene, merely gets back on the bullock cart and rides away again, never to return. The second volume of the trilogy, Subarnalata, published in 1967, describes Subarna`s married life, but Subarna is a meek and cowed version of her mother, tamely accepting all the indignities heaped upon her. When she asks her husband to build her a balcony in their new house, it seems as if a window will open for her on to the outside world, but when she walks through the finished house, there is no balcony. Her husband has forgotten. The last volume, Bakul Katha (1974), is a pale shadow of the first two.
The writings of Ashapurna Devi are popular for their strong female characters.
The writer`s world of Ashapurna Devi, is not her own personal world. Rather, it is an extension of home-worlds of all of us. Touched by her pen, all roles, all characters, come alive in front of us - She wonderfully touched the contradictory and changing expectations of a man and woman relationship. She portrayed the female characters as obedient wives, traditional and stimulating as well. For her female centric themes, critics have described as "kitchen writer"- sometimes as a young daughter, some times as an adolescent girl and some times as a new bride; some times as a woman, as a loving mother in whose womb a new world is beginning, some times as an aunt and an ageing housewife or as a grandmother or as an old helpless woman watching the changes in the society from a prison cell.
Through her writing she tried to explore the aspirations and inner desires of the women characters and their expectations. This legendary writer strived to make the female characters of her novels break the walls and limits made by the men and to liberate themselves. She portrayed the fights of women with the whole cruel world of men. Her books depict women characters in various ways. For instance, at times she is portrayed as very modern and good looking whereas at times she is portrayed as highly oppressed and traditional.
Throughout her career in the realm of Bengali literature, Ashapurna Devi penned down 242 novels, 62 children books and 37 short stories collection.
Some of the names of her popular novels are as follows -
Aar Ek Ashapurna
Asha Purna Devi r Rachanaboli [1-10]
Asha Purna Bithika
Chosma Palte Jai
Drishya Theke Drishyantore
Ei To Sedin
Noksha Kata Ghor
Pancha Nodir Teere
Prem O Proyojon
Sashi Babu`r Sangsar
Siri Bhanga Anka
Sthan Kaal Patra
Tin Prohor (Baluchori, Sunglass, Srinkholita)
V.I.P Bari`r Lok
Some of her short stories collection includes -
Aloy Adityer Iccha Patra Rahasyo
Bhitore Ki Chilo
Chotoder Srestho Golpo
Doshti Kishore Uponyas
Ek Kuri Golpo
Ek Samudra onek Dheu
Eker Modhe Teen
Golpo Holo Suru
Golper Moto Golpo
Jibon Kalir Pakka Hiseb
Kishore Bachai Golpo
Kisor Sahityo Samagro
Kisor Sahityo Samvar
Nije Bujhe Nin
Panchasti Kishore Galpo
Pakhi Theke Hati
Raajkumar Er Poshake
Raja Noi Rani Noi
Rani Mayabatir Antardhyan Rahosyo
Sei Sob Golpo
Sera Rahasyo Samvar
Shanirbachito Chotoder Shesto Golpo
Sono Sono Golpo Sono
Ashapurna Devi received several prestigious awards and prizes for her immense contribution to the world of Bengali literature. She was awarded the Lila prize in the year 1954 by the University of Calcutta
. Government of West Bengal conferred her `Raindrop Memorial Prize` in 1966. In the year 1976, she was given the "Padma Shri Award
" by the Government of India. She also received the `Jnanpith Award` in the same year. In the 1989, she was honoured with "Deshikottama" by the Visva-Bharati University
. In 1993, University of Calcutta presented her `Jagattarini Gold Medal`. Sahitya Akademi awarded its Fellowship to this prolific writer in the year 1994.
Ashapurna Devi dealt with the common issues of the society with extreme clarity. Her writing was like a never-ending process. Through her writing she protested against the injustice, inequality and the gender based discrimination of the traditional societies. Her books presented a modern theoretical feminism approach.